6 Changemakers Working To End Period Poverty

Women and girls have the right to manage their menstruation without shame or stigma. Sadly, this is not always the case. Period poverty is a very real issue, found in countries across the world.

But those who suffer the most are women and girls already disadvantaged. Often in cultures dominated by men, where strict societal norms and expectations dictate female behavior. This makes it harder to access resources such as sanitary towels and napkins, and clean water to wash. Which negatively impacts education, income, and future aspirations.

That’s why people worldwide are working to end period poverty. Here are 6 changemakers driving social and environmental change.

Innovators Fighting Period Poverty

1. Arunachalam Muruganantham

Known as India’s Pad Man, Arunachalam Muruganantham is a social entrepreneur and inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. This eco-friendly machine has gained global attention for giving women and girls menstrual hygiene and employment opportunities.

It began as a solution for his wife who was using rags because she couldn’t afford sanitary napkins. After many years he finally achieved his goal, to create pads from wood pulp through non-chemical methods. He has since been recognized by India’s National Innovation Foundation. While the pad machine has been distributed throughout India’s rural communities. Here, Muruganantham trains local women to operate the machines.

2. The Pad Project

The Pad Project was started in 2013 by a youth-led group of students and educators. Aiming to highlight the issue of period poverty through a budget documentary film, ‘Period. End of Sentence’. Its message, that menstruation matters for everyone, resonated well beyond its intended audience.

Since then, The Pad Project has grown into an organization with worldwide attention. Its mission is to cultivate local and global partnerships to end period stigma and empower menstruators around the world. So far, the project has placed numerous pad machines in areas of need, launched washable pad and education programs, and partnered with organizations to provide menstrual products to those in need. There are also plans to unite supporters worldwide through The Pad Project’s Ambassador Program.

3. Nadya Okamoto

As an author, organizer, and entrepreneur, Nadya Okamoto wants to change how we think about periods. At just 16, Okamoto founded PERIOD, an organization fighting to end period poverty and stigma.

Okamoto is also the co-founder of August, a brand that aims to turn the period into a powerful and dignified experience. August is a growing online community and a safe space for people to engage in conversations about menstruation. Okamoto has also published her book Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement and has been recognized on Forbes 30 under 30 and People Magazine’s Women Changing the World.

4. Myna Mahila Foundation

Breaking taboos surrounding periods in India is Suhani Jalota, the founder and CEO of Myna Mahila Foundation. With a mission to bring equal access to health care for all, the foundation employs, improves menstrual health, and builds networks for women.

The foundation gives job opportunities to women from urban slums. In these roles, women manufacture and sell affordable sanitary and maternity pads back to their communities. The foundation also offers daycare to encourage women to seek out employment. The charity gained worldwide attention when it got the support of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There are also opportunities to open a Myna franchise which will expand the foundation further.

5. Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE) 

Based in Rwanda, the SHE campaign helps women jumpstart locally-owned franchises to manufacture eco-friendly menstruation products. After visiting Rwanda in 2008, Elizabeth Scharpf and three MIT students discovered an urgent problem–a lack of access to affordable menstruation products. They found girls were missing out on school simply because they didn’t have sanitary pads.

With partners now around the globe, SHE28 campaigns that donated pads are not a long-term solution. Combining health education and advocacy, SHE believes in empowering communities to tackle period poverty and stigma from the ground up.

6. Freedom Cups

Singapore-Based Freedom Cups are a feminine hygiene business working to make sustainable, hygienic period products accessible to everyone. Founded by three sisters, the business operates on a ‘buy one, give one’ model, that provides to women in underprivileged communities. They’re ideal for places without toilets, electricity, or running water, and offer an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads.

Each cup lasts up to 15 years and replaces about 5,000 disposable sanitary products, making it a more economical and eco-friendly option. Freedom Cups has received recognition from the Obama Foundation, United Nations, Forbes 30 under 30, and many others.

Millions of women are unable to get the menstruation products they need. But initiatives like these help to bring the subject of menstruation into the open. This empowers women and girls to manage their periods with dignity and confidence.

How can you help?

1. Support brands that are choosing to help end period poverty

2. Sign petitions and donate to charities

3. Donate menstruation products

4. Educate yourself and keep up to date

5. Support and listen to others in need.

Kristen Rive-Thomson


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